Alicja Boniuszko was a ballerina and choreographer. She was the Baltic Opera's long-standing prima ballerina and won a gold Gloria Artis Medal for her artistic work. She created unforgettable roles in classic and contemporary ballets, many of which went down in the history of Polish dance.
Alicja Boniuszko was born in 1937 in Myadzyel, close to Vilnius. She graduated from the State Ballet School in Gdańsk and pursued her professional career in Trójmiasto: first as a dancer in a group conducted by Professor Janina Jarzynówna-Sobczak, a famous pedagogue, and later as an esteemed choreographer.
She debuted in 1956 and has performed on Polish and international stages, including in London, New York, and Rio de Janeiro. Her prominent leading roles in Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, Juliusz Łucik’s Niobe, Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, Karol Szymanowski’s Harnasie, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade and Bartók’s The Miraculous Mandarin went down in the history of Polish ballet.
In an interview with Barbara Karnold, Professor Jarzynówna-Sobczak emphasised that Alicja Boniuszko was unparalleled and unique as the Girl in The Miraculous Mandarin:
I met her in 1946 when her mother brought her to my studio for children. She was like a minuscule may bug yet did a split right off the bat! She had perfect proportions and a harmonious build and it soon turned out that I could ‘arrange ballet for her’. Her body gave in to my attempts in an unprecedented manner. […] We started with the basics of classical dance […] but her exceptional dance and versatility inclined me to search for a new style, more suitable for her. In another group she would have also become a prima ballerina, but, most probably, she would have had to stick to the classics.
The choreographer also said that she not only gave Alicja Boniszuko the opportunity to develop, but she herself also used her talent, often accepting her proposals for the interpretations of the roles. It was a true collaboration:
Starting with the earliest beginnings, through Baird’s 'Four Essays', Stravinsky’s 'Persephone', Łuciuk’s 'Niobe', Turski’s 'Titan and the Mule' and many others, including Karłowicz’s 'Eternal Songs' which were, in a sense, a tribute to her.
Alicja Boniuszko also performed in three Polish feature films. Having ended her dancing career in 1977, she devoted herself to choreographic work. She also worked on choreography for dramatic performances and was a juror in dance competitions.
In 2000 Boniuszko received the Książę Mściwoj II Prize awarded by Gdańsk City Council for lifetime achievement. In 2009 she was awarded the gold Gloria Artis Medal for Merit to Culture. She passed away on 23th December 2019.
Sources: taniecpolska.pl, 'W stulecie urodzin Janiny Jarzynówny-Sobczak' published by the Baltic Opera; compiled by AL, translated by Patryk Grabowski, Sep 2018